For Slow Fashion, And for LLOYD
I walk right past it at first. The unassuming façade, nestled between a corner store and a library, large windows facing the vacant street. I had been looking for a store or a retail space (even though she told me it wasn't.) I imagined bold words, a sign, "Lloyd Clothing" or the like. I walk a little more. Check and double-check the building number she gave me. Retrace my steps and find it.
I like walking alone, actually. Even in a strange place. It's the gentle thrill of clumsily figuring out a new transit system, the wandering through unfamiliar neighborhoods, free to think and feel whatever I like about it all. I entertain a great love for the sun-baked sidewalk then. For the vacillating March air, undecided between warm or cool; the green grass of Vancouver, such an alien sight for a prairie-dweller this time of year; the decrepit structures once called homes -- overgrown with weeds and studded with hazy windows. I even smile at the wild-haired pedestrians stumbling and murmuring, breaking the silence in this strangely quiet part of town. Through the lens of being alone in a foreign city, it all seems more beautiful than it probably is.
The studio is cool and serene inside, run by two women fitting the same description. I find myself mildly envious of their minimalist workspace. White walls, a table and chairs for sitting, a bigger table with pieces of fabric, a desk for sewing, a couch for reclining -- all bathed in the waxing light of the vast windows. Somehow, the clothes are made here. By these two women. On that sewing table. How clothing used to be made, I think.
I can't stop contemplating how peaceful their studio is. No machines whir loudly, the temperature is comfortable, there is plenty of natural light, and the air is fresh. I grieve for the scores of seamstresses who will never taste -- or perhaps could hardly imagine -- a workplace like this. To have creative freedom, a friend and coworker to dream and experiment with, a more flexible schedule, no life-threatening hazards -- all rare, precious luxuries in the fashion world. That's not to undermine the challenges of running a small business -- I have a deep respect for the energy and skill that goes into what Kathy and Mira do. But it is rewarding, fulfilling work that they love. Garments are their passion. And these are the kinds of brands I want my clothes to come from.
For those who might be unfamiliar with this model, a slow fashion brand is, essentially, one that makes clothes slowly. Whereas Zara produces over one million garments a day, a slow fashion brand might craft a few thousand in a year. Thoughtful attention is paid to the quality, fabric, and design of the garments. Clothes are often made in a local studio by a small team, instead of a bustling factory overseas. Thus, there are generally fewer instances of slavery or unfair treatment in the production of slow fashion, at least at the level where the clothes are sewn together.
Myra makes me herbal tea, serves it in a winsome speckled mug. They continue working as we talk, Kathy measuring and cutting a great black piece of fabric on the large table. With so little experience in sewing, I am sadly ignorant as to what they are doing; I can only observe in awe.
I received a garment from them not long before I ventured out to Vancouver. A wrap top constructed of light tencel fabric, a delicate nude-blush tint. I admired it, certainly. But it wasn't until sitting there next to them, glimpsing the creation process and listening to them talk, that a story began to form behind the garment. Not merely a garment, a piece of disposable fabric or a trend I purchased on a whim. It's the work of nimble fingers, of creative minds, of two hard-working women who respect both style and sustainability. They use eco-friendly fabrics, machine washable (praise be). Now when I pull on the top in the morning, I feel an inner glow. A connection to a bigger picture. Something we lose when we know not where our clothes come from.
Sitting there, I feel a deep contentment wash over me. A tranquility permeating the moment so thoroughly that I lose track of time. It's my first real experience in a slow fashion studio, and I'm mesmerized.
When I finally notice how golden the light has become outside, I check my watch, utter something about needing to head out. It's an hour transit ride back to my husband's family home, and my phone -- my compass -- is dying.
I thank them for the lovely visit, promise to stop by on my next visit to the coast. I leave a little lighter than I was before.